Monday, November 22, 2010


OK, so I'm living in Bakersfield now, in Dodgers land, boo. Not much else is new, just surviving still. And I'm not a blonde anymore - a brunette struggling to get by. Oh well, at least I still have great friends, etc. I get to go home for Thanksgiving tomorrow and Christmas eventually. Go me!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


2010. As my friend Sagar said, "My New's Years Resolution for 2010 is to move to America".

I've been a bad blogger the past few months. Here's a quick recap:

Counterpart moved back to Merke. I am now teaching in the mornings and tutoring after lunch. Excellent schedule.

Spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in Taraz with the Newbies (new volunteers who arrived in Kaz in August). Made pumpkin pie, Morris rolls, etc. AND my first turkey.

MST (Mid Service Training). All the Kaz 20 volunteers reunited in Almaty for a PC conference. Saw friendly old faces.

Thailand. Thailand. Thailand. Spent 10 days in Thailand with three other Peace Corps Volunteers (Corinne, Nick and Andy). Spent the first four days exploring Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai Province) - riding elephants, averaging 4 Thai meals a day, drinking delicious Thai beer, bamboo rafting down a river, "hiking" through the jungle and seeing waterfalls. Spent the last 5 days on an island (Koh Samed) doing absolutely nothing. Woke up early in the mornings and went for a run (until I got terrible blisters) then I started swimming (in the ocean!) in the mornings. Sat on a beach reading, throwing a frisbee, eating, playing cards, and doing nothing productive whatsoever all day long.

Returned to Merke. Celebrated the New Year with good friends (Sagar and AC - who returned from America earlier this fall) and rang it in together with the Russian neighbors.

Currently on Winter Break from schools until January 9th. Have split my time between Merke and Taraz with nothing on the agenda but movies and friends.

Kreshenya is on January 19th. For which I plan to head north to the city of Petropavlovsk to partake in an old Russian Orthodox tradition: jumping into a frozen river in Kazakh Siberia.

I've got lots of things to say and a little more time to say them, so look forward to hearing from me soon. In the mean time, Thailand pictures are posted on Facebook (you can email me for a link).

xoxo j

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wanted: Motivation

I've been a little stumped with the blog posts lately (as you may well have noticed). Having been in Kazakhstan a year already, things are sometimes seeming less exciting and less unfamiliar. But, our new volunteers will soon be shipped off to their permanent sites and it reminds me that this was all once very new and different. There was a time when it seemed like there were too many details to record and every little moment was an adventure. Basically, I'm having a bit of writer's block and am finding it hard to remember what people back home might (or might not) be interested in hearing about. I need fresh eyes. :)

So, I decided to write to you, dear readers, for some motivation. Ask me questions. Anything you'd like, from mundane to the complex. Whatever you find yourself hoping to read about when you visit this blog, ask me. I'd love to have some new topics to write about. And with a year's experience under my belt, I feel almost qualified to talk about them.

*I suppose this will also serve as a little test to see if anyone is still reading this blog? :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

In My Future Life...

Warning: This post is going to be about my students again. :)

My students are not known for their writing skills, and last year instead of tackling this problem head on, I just followed my counterpart's lead and steered clear of nearly any and all writing assignments. This year, I have a lot more flexibility in the classroom (as you saw with the Pirates lesson plan) and so I've decided to slowly approach the task of improving their writing.

I started my 7th grade students out with a poem. I gave them the line prompts and they just had to finish the thoughts. The poem was titled "In My Future Life". Some of the things they came up with were absolutely priceless. I decided to include a few to give a better idea of what working with Kazakhstanian students in the English classroom can be like. (I haven't omitted spelling errors, these are original works of art).

In my future life,
I'd like to be a ghost,
I'd like to fryghten people
And go cemetery

In my future life,
I'd like to be a pirat
I'd like to whistle a song
Then stolen a treasure
And run at the yaght
Please ban all fish from ocean.

In my future life,
I'd like to be a skeleton
I'd like to eat people
And steal treasures
Then jump around my island
Please ban all lions from Saturn.

In my future life,
I'd like to be hungry worm
I'd like to dance in the box
And I'd like to drink wine
Then kiss a turtle
Please ban all seagull from Jakarta

In my future life,
I'd like to be a martian
I'd like to dance
And jump, jump, jump
Then drink a sea of milk
Please ban all people from earth.

And my personal favorite...

In my future life
I'd like to be a zombie
I'd like to crazy
And eat people
Then sleep.
Please give me to play with baby's.

Despite the obvious errors, I can't help but be terribly proud of these kids.

Friday, September 25, 2009

More pictures from Culture Holiday

My favorite 11th grade class.

My favorite 10th grade class.

These ones made me think of nuns. Or Sister Act, more specifically. Especially when they were dancing...

You could just see the concentration in these little boys' eyes when they danced.

Cultural Holiday at School No. 39

We had some sort of holiday this week at my school. Basically every homeroom class was given a nationality (found in Kazakhstan) and they had to prepare some sort of presentation around that nationality. It actually reminded me a lot of the Culture Presentations we did during my Global and Cultural Awareness Week. Except the costumes were fantastic and the performances were a little more dance-focused. I spent two hours (during the break between morning and afternoon sessions) watching the different classes perform and was even asked to be an extra in one presentation. It was long and my feet were tired after standing that long, but it was totally worth it.

Daniar (we would call him Daniel in America) is one of the sweetest little boys at my school. He also participated in my Summer Camp.

Little boys and their capes... (this was Germany I believe)

The Russian 5th grade class. They were Ukraine.

All the little 5th graders. SO cute.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pirates (пираты)

written September 16, 2009

It's the end of the third week of school and I still don't have a permanent schedule. I am told what my day's schedule will be at approximately 1:30pm the day before. This is not uncommon for Kazakhstan. The administration takes the month of September to get organized and the teachers scramble about making do in the mean time. More importantly than the teacher not having a reliable schedule is the fact that none of the English classes have books. Aparently this is also something that takes the month of September to coordinate. For anyone who has ever taught students before, I'm sure you can imagine how difficult it is for a teacher to plan lessons without a book and with less than 24 hours notice as to which classes will be taught.

As a result, for the past three weeks I have been making up lesson plans using the internet, my own creativity or any other resource I have available. This week, running low on ideas, I came across a lesson theme online that I thought might be of interest for my 7th form students. The theme? Pirates. I found a song online (The Pirate Song) and pulled the Pittsburg Pirate logo off the internet. After learning new vocabulary words (like peg leg), and listening to The Pirate Song, I showed them the Pittsburg Pirate logo and told them that for the last 10 minutes of class, their job was to design a NEW logo for the baseball team and that we would vote on the winner (and that person would receive a 5 for the day - this is the equivalent of an A+).

I thought you might like to see what my students came up with...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What? No Water?

written September 10, 2009

So, I'm a procrastinator by nature. Honestly, I blame my brother. He always excelled at procrastinating when we lived at home together and I immediately understood that this was a way of life that I needed to adopt. It didn't take long before I, too, excelled in the art of procrastination. In Davis, 90% of my essays were started and completed the morning they were due and I always seemed to get away with it.

Since arriving back on the farm I've gladly welcomed my procrastinating ways back into my daily life. Dishes? I'll do them in the morning. Cleaning the floors? Eh, I'll wear socks. I can clean the floors on Thursday. Bathing? My hair doesn't start to look greasy until after 2.5 days. I'll boil water when I absolutely have to. Well, I believe the time has come for my lesson to be taught.

Yesterday afternoon, a mere 24 hours before Joe is planning to arrive in Merke, I decided it was probably about time to clean those floors and the few dishes left over from breakfast. I went out to the pump and began pumping. It took me a minute before I realized nothing was coming out of the pump. At first, I assumed I must just be doing it wrong (as if the past 5 months hasn't been lesson enough) but quickly realized that no, indeed something was terribly wrong. Every time I pulled and pushed the pump the darn thing only yielded air. I ran over to my neighbor's house to play the "stupid American" card, but she was still at work.

So, now I've got dirty floors, I'm feeding Kairu bottled water and the dirty dishes keep piling up. Not to mention the fact that I am now a day past my greasy hair limit and haven't gotten a run in for 3 days. It's a really bizarre feeling to realize that you don't have access to water. Suppose I'm going to have to stock up on gallon bottles of water at the local магазин (shop) that or start carrying buckets to and from a neighbor's water pump...

I'm sorry I procrastinate. I know I won't change my ways, but I would really love some water right about now! :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

I Rescued A Dog From Kazakhstan Today

I had been planning to temporarily adopt a puppy. Saltanat's dog had a litter of seven puppies two months ago and she asked if I'd like to keep one of them at my house until I moved back to America. This sounded great for a number of reasons, the main one being that I get bored and puppies are cute! I had planned to pick the puppy up from Saltanat's after my trip to Sweden. However, when I made my way over there the puppy was much less excited about me than I was about her. She was the last of the litter left and she had seen all of her brothers and sisters shipped off. When Saltanat even tried to approach her she ran screaming and crying into the garden. We spent 20 minutes trying to catch the puppy and everytime we got close she sounded as though someone had stepped on her - yelping and squealing.
After 20 minutes, I was feeling pretty unwanted and Saltanat was pretty tired. She told me she would try and catch the dog and bring it to my house whenever she caught it. Well, a week passed and no dog showed up at my front door. I had resigned myself to the fact that the puppy and I were not meant to be, but made jokes about how the puppy had no idea how good she would have had it if she had simply wanted to be loved by me.

(Enter Fate)

After a trip to the "white house" (the toilets at our school), Saltanat, Dinara (the other amazing new and young English teacher) and I came across an adorable little puppy on the school grounds. I crouched down and called him to me and he came galloping across the path up to my legs. He wasn't afraid of me at all. Saltanat eyed me (knowing full well what I was thinking). I asked her if the puppy was a stray and she asked the groundskeeper (who was standing nearby). Sure enough, he had no home. Saltanat and Dinara encouraged me to adopt him and I decided that when my lessons were finished I would think about taking this dog home with me.
I spent one entire lesson just looking out the window for the puppy. I was terrified he was going to run off and I wouldn't be able to take him home. After the lesson, I told Saltanat that I must go look for 'my' puppy. I had already claimed him, apparantly. When I got outside a bunch of 7th or 8th grade boys were working in the yard (something they have to do in Kazakhstan). The puppy was just wandering around them, trying to be one of the boys. I walked excitedly over to him and pet him furiously. The boys got very excited about the puppy and started asking me to translate things about him in Russian. He's black. He's a boy. etc. Then they started picking on him, as Kazakh boys like to do. I was discussing with the groundskeeper that I wanted to take the puppy home after classes. The boys literally began tossing the puppy around and kicking him when I wasn't looking. I scolded them and decided right then and there that the puppy was coming home with me.
And so, I have provided a home for this adorable homeless puppy. It took me a day (and an hour-long Skype conversation with Sarah) but I finally named him. Kairu (kai-roo). It means "little black one" in Kenyan and while it may be a little peculiar, I just couldn't escape the name. He's going to be one cultured little puppy, let me tell you. He's already learning both English and Russian ('come' in English, and the equivalent of 'no, stop that!' in Russian) and he has a Kenyan name and could one day visit America? :)
I'll try not to let this blog turn into the Kairu Chronicles, but he IS providing me with much entertainment and a lot more chores around the house. I no longer come home and spend hours watching movies or reading books. Now, I've got to feed the dog, make sure he doesn't have any fleas, potty-train and (when I get my hands on a collar/leash) take him for walks. If only he were a little older, I could start training him to run with me. :) Kairu is a very welcome addition to The Farm - at least until the Hubers come back and we have to worry about allergies...

Isn't he adorable?
After his first bath, which he did NOT like very much.
Debbie and Paul sent dog treats for Norbert, but since he ran away... the new puppy says Thank You!
And then, off to play...